Blue Jays Pitcher Marcus Stroman Shows His Athletic Skills
PHOENIX – As a hard-nosed player who squeezes every ounce of effort out of his body in every single game, Josh Donaldson admires Marcus Stroman, when he throws caution to the wind on the bases against National League teams.
But, as a teammate, those Stroman base-running moments strike fear in Donaldson’s heart.
“I don’t like to see it because you don’t want him to get hurt but that fact of the matter is that Stro is one of the fastest guys in the clubhouse,” said Donaldson after Stroman flung himself around the bases against the Diamondbacks.
The Blue Jays pitcher, reached on an error, made a successful sacrifice, slid head-first into second base on another occasion and scored a run on a Darwin Barney triple in the eighth.
“He was able to put that on display today,” said Donaldson. “He’s an athlete. He looks good swinging the bat and he looks good running the bases. You just don’t want to see something happen.”
For Stroman, these are moments he lives for.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “It brings back memories of being at Duke when I got to run the bases and all that. Any way I can contribute to help this team win, I’m more than willing to do.”
The only false note struck by the Blue Jays Wednesday was the outing experienced by lefty reliever Brett Cecil.
He came into a 10-1 game in the ninth, got one out, then allowed back-to-back singles followed by a three-run homer to Tuffy Gosewich.
“We need him to be good,” manager John Gibbons said. “We sent him in for an inning of work. He got (Jake) Lamb and then it went bam-bam-bam. Balls up in the zone, right over the plate and they attacked him. We need him better than that.”
Cecil was one of the most effective relievers in baseball over the last three months of the 2015 season but he has not been able to deliver the command and control of either his fastball or lethal curve this season.
Donaldson splashed one home run into the Chase Field hot tob in right-centre field to begin the game Wednesday, and came within inches of hitting a second one later on, settling for an RBI double. In addition, he made at least three extraordinary plays behind Stroman.
“He was the MVP last year and there are reasons for that,” Gibbons said. “I almost think he’s having a better year this year. I don’t know what the numbers say, but I think his defence has been more consistent this year.
“We have some sluggers but he’s a pure hitter, too. He’s that one guy who will use the whole field, if all he needs is a single. He has great understanding of who he’s facing and how they’re pitching him. He’s got a great memory. He’s a good base-runner. He’s really the centrepiece of what we’ve got here.”
BARNEY FILLS IN
With Michael Saunders away from the team for a day on personal business and Ezequiel Carrera‘s left Achilles tendon still not quite ready for game action, super-utility man Darwin Barney was pressed into duty in left field.
“We like the way he moves around out there in the outfield,” Gibbons said. “He’s just such a good athlete. And he’s hit lefties pretty well.”
Barney said the last time he played left field was in 2006 as a member of the world champion United States All-Star Junior team. And what a team it was. David Price and Jake Arrieta were two of that team’s pitchers. Todd Frazier, currently the leading home run hitter in the American League, was in right field. Pedro Alvarez was at third base, Brandon Crawford and Zack Cozart were the shortstops and Jemile Weeks was at second base. J.P. Arencibia was the catcher.
“We never lost a game,” Barney said.
Wednesday, Barney made two fine running catches in the outfield and drove in three runs with a triple and a single, scoring twice.
In his first game back on a rehab assignment with the class-A Dunedin Blue Jays, Jose Bautista belted a home run in a Florida State League game Wednesday
Bautista, sidelined the last five weeks with a case of turf toe, also slammed into the outfield fence at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium trying, unsuccessfully to make a difficult catch in right field.
“I feel pretty good,” Bautista said after the game. “I was good enough to pass with flying colours.”
Bautista is expected to join the Buffalo Bisons for the weekend and be back in uniform for the big-league team on Monday.
“I don’t expect any setbacks,” Bautista said. “If things go as planned I should be back in Toronto on Monday.”
— with files from Eddie Michels